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A New Proposal?

Rhapsodica's picture

Obviously, this draft isn’t quite six pages long, as it should have been by this point. This is because I had originally started with a completely different topic, but eventually realized it was not what I wanted to do (for a number of reasons, it was just not the right time or place for me to explore the questions I was posing for myself in the way I was hoping to do so). I’m certainly going to read more and expand on the ideas I’m talking about here, so this draft is really more of a second proposal than a draft… but well, this is what I have at the moment, and I figure I should at least post that much...

For a couple of years, Sandra Cisneros has been one of my favorite writers -- I keep happening upon her stories, and always fall in love with them (for the style as well as the content). Reading more about her background last week was very interesting to me... seeing how she sees her writing as a way to acknowledge and celebrate the voices in her life/neighborhood that cannot speak for themselves... how she sees her voice as saying something that no one else can say...

A couple of months ago, on an impulse, I picked up this book I found at The Title Page called Writing Women's Lives edited by Susan Cahill. It's basically a book of little autobiographical excerpts by women writers throughout history... the first being by Jane Addams, the last ones by writers like Cisneros, Dorothy Allison, etc. I flipped to Cisneros' section the other night, and found that hers was an interview, where she talks about how feminism, class, and race are all connected for her, and how she came to be a writer, and things like that. She also says that she loves Maxine Hong Kingston, and that The Woman Warrior (which I've also read) "gave [her]permission to keep going with what [she'd] started with House on Mango Street." I found this interesting, since I hadn't initially drawn that parallel between the two of them, though now I see lots of connections in why they write, how they were influenced by their mothers and other women in their lives to see and represent women in a certain way, how Kingston's writing told Cisneros that what she was doing is worthwhile.

She doesn't say very much about how Kingston's book influenced her writing in that interview, but I am curious to look back at both books (I read both outside of class during my senior year, but never really spent enough time thinking about them) and see how they connect. In her interview, Cisneros says that she had to figure out, in her twenties, that she had no role model, and that she had to invent it... I am curious to look at how she does that in Mango Street as well as the other stories of hers that I've read (eg. "Woman Hollering Creek")... and how she draws on the people in her family as well as other writers in doing so.

I suppose at this point, you would probably ask me where I enter into the conversation. It took me a while to figure this out, but I think the reason I like Cisneros so much is sort of for the same reason she likes Kingston -- her writing inspires me to write what I know, in the voice that I know... for the people I know. I've always wanted to be a fiction writer -- not a memoirist, nor a writer of creative non-fiction. I can't really say why, because there's no real reason. I guess I just like reading fiction, and thus would like to be able to write it myself. Yet, I still tend to lean towards the familiar. I write about my mother a lot -- sometimes to cope with things we've been through (a lot of moving and other bad things that happened because of her depression, how she dealt with my father and relationships with men in general and how that's affected me, etc.), or to try and unravel exactly what happened that made her the way she was, and how she has shaped who I am. I haven't looked at the rest of my family nearly as much, but I hope to someday write about them, too. I like writing about people I know because writing is the way I think through things -- it's how I figure people out and understand how they relate to each other, how I figure out why I'm feeling a certain way,etc... but, hm, I guess I feel like it's also for a lot of the same reasons that Cisneros and Kingston wrote... to express myself and claim my own identity in ways that other women in my life never did... yet to also explore how those women are strong in other ways?

So, essentially, I guess I'm saying that Kingston's book served as an example for Cisneros as she was developing her own voice as a writer... and Cisneros has played that role for me in my own development as a writer. Both of them write in order to show the strength of the women in their stories, and both are influenced by women in their lives... which I can say about myself, too. I'm basically looking at how women inspire one another, how their stories and experiences connect and are expressed through the written word... in the case of these two writers (and myself, I suppose), specifically. Or something like that... I'm still trying to figure it all out.

When I sent these ideas to Anne through email, she reminded me that Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own actually fits in with my project quite nicely, so I’m probably going to use it in my project as well (“"when they came to set their thoughts on paper...they had no tradition behind them, or one so short and partial that it was of little help. For we think back through our mothers if we are women” is the quote she pointed out for me – and I remember some other aspects of the book that would certainly connect to what I’m trying to talk about, too). As I said, I’ve actually read the majority of the texts I’m talking about, though I’m planning to try and re-read them with my project in mind. I’m pretty excited to get started, so hopefully I’ll make a lot of progress now that I’m taking on a topic I feel better about exploring right now.